Building lifter takes post-quake technology to rest of NZ

Commercial lifting company Meccanico is harnessing the experience it learned from the Christchurch earthquakes and putting it into practice in Auckland and Wellington.

With contracts tendered for re-levelling Wellington’s Town Hall among others, the company has had the benefit of some unusual jobs, including lifting a castle that was subsiding.

One of the most obvious advantages of lifting a structure is saving buildings that might otherwise be demolished, including heritage and historic buildings.

Owner Rod Moore employs different lifting systems using computer controlled technology developed overseas.

In Christchurch he has re-levelled entire blocks of commercial shops with concrete pad foundations, one of them weighing 800 tonnes.

He is about to embark on a lift of the Rankine Brown Library at Victoria University in Wellington to install seismic isolation units.

In Wellington the system Moore is using was developed in the Netherlands where he travelled to learn about it before bringing it to New Zealand.

It will be used to lift the stairwell for seismic strengthening.

Moore’s residential work is carried out through another of his companies, House Lifters, which has been awarded a contract to lift the Albert Park cottage in central Auckland as part of the council’s plan to restore its heritage buildings.

“One of the reasons I set up the branch in Auckland was to prove it wasn’t just a business that existed on the back of the Christchurch earthquakes,” he said.

Moore said his house lifting system has proven popular in Auckland with people renovating older homes and either re-piling them or lifting them to build additional living space underneath.

He said he had also approached the Government over moving state houses on large sections to allow additional homes to be built.

“People in Auckland doing renovations could see it was a safer system than just propping up a house with blocks of timber.

“Auckland is a little behind when it comes to health and safety with foundation work which requires specialist people and equipment.”

Among the several projects Moore has completed in Christchurch was the strip out, re-strengthening and refurbishment of the Sudima Hotel at Christchurch airport over four months. The hotel’s Lincoln and Roosevelt wings were damaged in the main February 2011 earthquake.

New foundations, block walls and structural steel were installed to bring the wings back up to 67 per cent of new building standard.

A more unusual lift was for the Waimakariri Sailing and Power Boat Club to elevate the club building above flood levels. The task was more challenging because of the need to coordinate and perform the lift between tides.

Moore said the project demanded high levels of consultation, planning and teamwork and demonstrated the capacity to solve problems too complex for traditional lifting methods.

Other projects have included lifting precast concrete units with various pad foundations.

Properties were close to water and required a slow lift of more than 150mm. Meccanico then also replaced all the concrete slabs and refurbished the units.

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